FICTION

THE TEN GALLON HAT

ERIC KNIGHT October 1 1939
FICTION

THE TEN GALLON HAT

ERIC KNIGHT October 1 1939

THE TEN GALLON HAT

ERIC KNIGHT

THE AMERICANS,” said Young Mr. Albert, “are a very curious people. For instance, I found that they keep their houses much, much too warm, and serve their drinks much, much too cold.”

Everyone at the meeting, that had been called to hear Young

Mr. Albert’s report on his American trip, thought this over solemnly. A thick sort of foglike gloom reigned round the table. Then Old Josiah’s voice was heard, ponderous and grave.

“There’s nothing,” he announced, “like a good mug o’ mulled ale !” The atmosphere cleared perceptibly, and everyone said hear-hear. Even Mr. Manley, at the foot of the table, said hear-hear. Not that he’d ever tasted a glass of mulled ale, but the warmth of the moment had caught him. He glanced over at Miss Watchup, who was taking the minutes of the meeting. He caught a glance from her eyes—those too-beautiful eyes behind the gold-rimmed glasses. He felt himself glow, and then suddenly he remembered that Miss Watchup was an ardent teetotaller. On that memorable day last year when they had talked, of other things than business, she had announced that. Perhaps, he thought, in a sort of panic, her glance had not been one of approval. Perhaps ...

Like a groggy prize fighter hearing the bell, he was saved from his own thoughts by Mr. Albert’s voice, rising triumphantly:

“And that is why the product of Josiah Dobley, Bro., & Son, Ltd., shirtmakers by Special Appointment to His Majesty the King, has never been able to gain a foothold in America.”

\oung Mr. Albert sat down suddenly, leaving the meeting in a vague and uncomfortable perplexity. Old Josiah, at the head of the great oak table, cleared his throat.

“Come, come, Albert, my lad,” he said. “Are ye trying to tell us we can’t sell our shirts in America because Americans don’t like mulled ale?”

“Ah, now I remember, sir,” Young Mr. Albert cried, jumping to his feet. “It was a sort of a parable, only I forgot to put the parable part in. What I mean is—and this is my great discovery—the Americans do not put their shirts on over their heads.”

“Well, 1 11 go to blazes.” Old Josiah said. “Ye mean they climb in feet-first?”

“Oh, no.”

“Now. now, Albert, my lad. If a chap wears a shirt at all, he’s either got to get into it feet-first or headfirst—even if he’s an American!” “No, sir. It’s this way. They have shirts open all the way up the front, and they put ’em on like coats. And when I discovered that, it all came over me like a flash. I said to myself: ‘I shouldn’t wonder if that isn't why all our efforts to enter that market in the last ten years have been fraught with such discouraging results!’ ”

“Dorn discouraging,” Old Josiah put in.

“\ es, sir. Here the Americans wear shirts like coats, and all the time we’ve been sending over shirts like shirts. The question I then asked was: How are we to solve the problem?”

\ oung Mr. Albert looked round the table in a sort of triumphant rhetorical pause.

“Make our export shirts open all the way up the front.” put in Ponsonby, the London Retail Manager.

Mr. Manley, at the foot of the table, was shocked. Ponsonby was always pushing himself forward. In fact, in the secret recesses of his heart. Mr. Manley always referred to Mr. Ponsonby, the London Retail Manager, as “that pusher, Ponsonby.” Perhaps that was why his heart warmed when he heard Young Mr. Albert’s voice say:

“Well, that is an alternative, Ponsonby, though I cannot say it entered my consideration. No, gentlemen. My answer was shops. Dobley shops. Open retail shops in America. Slowly. One at a time. New York, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Philadelphia. Shops where we will begin overcoming any petty prejudices against putting a shirt on over the N head. And once the really better-dressed man

H of America gets a Dobley shirt on over his

¥ head, he will realize, as British gentlemen have for four generations, that for style, comfort, finish and quality, there is no shirt in the

world—if I may say so—to touch the Dobley shirt.

“Once get that done—a shirt over the head—and in a short time —possibly only ten or fifteen years—we shall have a toehold in their import business. What I mean is, eh? What?”

Mr. Albert sat down, and for a space there was a silence. In it you could hear the hiss of the soft-coal fire in the grate, and beyond that the hum of the machines out in the factory, and the lilting voices of the girls, as they sang at their work through the afternoon. Then Old Josiah spoke.

“Well, a plan like that would take capital—which we might manage. But what puzzles me is who could we send over? I wouldn’t want to go to no foreign lands for ten or fifteen year, and I’m right sure Benjy wouldn’t. So unless you do?”

It was in the pause while Mr. Albert shook his head that Mr. Manley heard again that brazen voice of the pusher, Ponsonby.

“I wouldn’t mind going over to the States to handle the territory, sir.”

Mr. Manley sat aghast. He saw Miss Watchup looking at Ponsonby with a sort of admiration. But Old Josiah was peering from under his bushy eyebrows and saying in his thick Yorkshire voice: “Happen so. We’ll think it over. How about it, Benjy?”

Old Mr. Benjamin, who was the “Bro.” of Josiah Dobley, Bro., & Son, Ltd., spoke for the first time.

“What I say is,” he said, “shirts is shirts, and coats is coats. And personally I can’t see for the life of me how anyone could get ’em mixed up.”

“Aye,” Old Josiah said. “Well, we must mull it over a while.” Benjamin Dobley seemed to come to life.

“Talking o’ mulling things over, Josiah. It’s time for tea, isn’t it?” “So it is, Benjy,” Old Josiah said.

Everyone rose at his signal; but they were halted by Young Mr. Albert’s voice.

“One moment. As a sort of—er—souvenir, I’ve brought back some presents.”

And it w-as then that he brought out the hats. Mr. Manley, watching him, saw him whip off the cover of a hatbox like a magician at the varieties. And what hats! Hats that were pearly grey. Not weak hats. Not puny hats. They were hats with immense crowns and outlandish, swashbuckling brims.

“And what,” asked Old Josiah, “are these?”

“They are called. I believe, ten-gallon hats. You know, like the chaps wear in the cinema.”

Old Josiah looked up coldly from the hat he w-as holding in his hands.

“I have never yet found occasion to visit the cinematographic pictures,” he said.

He put down the hat and left the room. Mr. Benjamin put down his hat and left the room. Quickly Ponsonby put down his hat and left the room.

Mr. Manley stood, hesitating. Clearly Young Mr. Albert’s affair of the hats hadn’t gone off with the éclat he had envisioned. Mr. Manley felt sorry for Young Mr. Albert. Young Mr. Albert was, down inside him, a friendly sort.

“Well, I did bring one for you, too, Manley. That is, if you

care to . . . ”

“For me? Oh, Mr. Albert. Why ...”

And Mr. Manley was turning the hat over. And then—he put it on ! He turned toward Miss Watchup. Her eyes were large.

“Oh. Mr. Manley!” she said, and her voice was hushed with awe. “You like it. Miss Watchup?”

“Oh, Mr. Manley ! It does something for you. that hat does. Why, if I didn’t know, I wouldn’t think it was you.”

“Indeed?” Mr. Manley breathed. “Indeed?”

\yfISS WATCHUP’S evident admiration had forewarned Mr.

Manley that the hat gave him a changed appearance. But even then he was not prepared for the shock he got that evening when he looked in the mirror.

“Oh, my word !” he said to himself. “My word !”

The hat certainly “did something.” as Miss Watchup had phrased it. It made him look—devil-may-care.

Now Mr. Manley wasn’t a devil-may-care fellow. What’s more, he knew it. He was just a quiet, meek little Englishman who had worn his routine groove of life so deep that he could no longer peer over the edges of it. And now routine was broken.

It had a swashbuckling brim and a habit of talking back — another gay fantasy by the author of "The Flying Yorkshireman"

Ordinarily, at this time, he should have been fixing himself a nice hot cup of bouillon and some toast on his gas ring, prior to a comfortable evening with a top-notch adventure story, or a trip to a good, exciting motion picture. But instead, here he was, standing in the dingybright room of a house in a Yorkshire factory town—a room whose only dignity was when one was away from it and referred to it as “my diggings”—gazing at his reflection in the mirror on the wall, a reflection which showed him wearing an outlandish, swaggering hat.

And he stared and stared, and the clock ticked on. For he was spellbound by what he saw.

It wasn’t so much the hat. True, it was there with its triumphant crown and the challenge of its swashbuckling brim. But it was what had happened to the face. In the great, gashing shadow that the brim made, those eyes no longer looked mild. They looked like narrow slits—the cruel, icy eyes of a man of action. And below that there jutted out into the light a chin—or rather, a jaw. It was a jaw that said its owner was a chap to be reckoned with —no, the jaw of a tough hombre.

A tough hombre! Mr. Manley knew —indeed he did—from page and screen what that face before him meant. When a tough hombre's jaw sets, and his eyes

glint—like the flash of cold steel in the

moonlight—friend and foe alike know that there goes one who will brook no

interference. There goes a man!

How well Mr. Manley knew that.

“Don’t move! Nary a one o’ ye!” Mr. Manley barked.

And in that room he knew that nary a one was moving. True, there may have been hands that itched to reach for shooting irons; but the owners knew that behind the eyes that gazed insouciantly from under lazy eyelids there were nerves of steel and a cold courage that belonged to the deadest shot this side of the Bad Lands.

With a seemingly careless laugh Mr. Manley walked from the mirror. True, his back was toward them; but they knew that even given a chance to draw first Mr. Manley—no. Two Gun Manley—would be able to whirl, blazing from hip, bringing his man down every time.

His legs bowed from years in the saddle, Two Gun Manley paced the room. Then, suddenly, the gay laugh died on his lips, for behind him he heard a noise—a tiny sound. He whirled like a flash and quavered:

“Who—who’s there?”

There was a mouselike rustling, then a voice said:

“It’s me, Mr. Manley.” Convulsively Mr. Manley yanked off the hat and sailed it behind his easy chair. He felt as if he had been caught in a strange sin. He hurried to the door and opened it the three inches allowed by the chain bolt, and gazed at his landlady.

“Eigh, I heard thee walking around and talking to thyself, and I wondered if aught was wrong, Mr. Manley.”

“No, er—thank you, Mrs. Helliwell,” he said. “Quite all right. Quite!”

He closed the door and then crouched, listening to her stealthy footsteps going down the hall—counting the steps. At last, satisfied she wras gone, he went back, picked up the hat, put it on, and tried to continue the game.

But now a puzzling thing happened. The game wouldn't start any more. Mr. Manley felt it

wasn’t his fault—for goodness knows, he was willing enough. It seemed to be the hat that was stubborn. It was as if the hat had a personality, and was angry about being thrown out of sight behind the chair.

Mr. Manley went to the mirror. What he saw there shocked him. For no longer was there a blending of spirits. The hat sat there, only a strange piece of pearl-grey felt, contained in itself. And under it, no longer the eyes glinted and the jaw jutted.

“Perhaps the trouble’s with the face,” Mr. Manley whispered.

The thought came like a catch at his heart. He bent nearer the mirror, looking at the gentle brown eyes, the snub nose, the chin that, somehow, had never seemed to grow up. He looked so long the vision seemed to whirl and he was in a semihypnosis—a strange state in which he was on the brink of discovering an answer to the fearful mystery of life. But it was an answer he knew he didn’t want to know.

He drew in his breath so quickly that the sound woke him from the spell. Sadly, very sadly, he walked from the mirror. He took off the hat and hung it on a nail in the wall. Now it was nothing but a souvenir, a decoration— like the picture of himself in the frame below it.

Then he went to his chair, to settle down for the evening. But his eyes kept coming back to the hat. At last he got up.

“I think,” he announced out loud, “I’ll go to the pictures.”

This was strange, for it was neither a Tuesday nor a Friday night, and Mr. Manley only went to the pictures on Tuesdays and Fridays. Stranger still, when he got out, Mr. Manley didn’t go to the pictures. Instead he wandered aimlessly about the grimy city. Long after ten o’clock he found himself, still walking, far out in a suburb called Silverthorne Gardens.

A/fR. MANLEY grew to hate that hat. For it ruined the calm routine of his life. It was ridiculous, of course, to imagine that an inarticulate object could have such a powerful influence. Mr. Manley often thought that. And he resolved to be master over it.

But that was when he was at work—-away from it. When he got home and in the hat’s presence, it was different. He would try to ignore it—to settle down to a comfortable evening at home. But his eyes would come, surely, inevitably, to the hat on the wall. It would hang there, silently, contemptuously, as if it were daring him to do something. It wouldn't leave him alone. And the end was always the same. Despairingly he would get up, and go out —wandering hopelessly about the streets, somehow always finding his footsteps leading to the lonesome suburbia of Silverthorne Gardens, where the wind blustered in of nights from the wide moors.

And when he got home, .exhausted, puzzled, the hat would still be there—somehow knowing everything.

Mr. Manley grew to hate it—he hated it as an errant husband hates a virtuous wife who sits up for him, unspeaking, letting no reproach come into her calm, knowing eyes.

One day while at the office he had an idea.

“Of course,” he said. “It’s ridiculous not to have thought of it before.”

That evening wfien he went home he set his chin. He took the hat and opened the window.

“It's either you, or me.” he said. “This house isn’t big enough for the two of us.”

Then he sailed it way out into the darkened back street.

But Mrs. Helliwell found it and brought it back.

“I said to myself,” she said, “why, if this ain’t the funny-looking ’at off of Mr. Manley’s wall.”

Mr. Manley clutched frantically at another idea. He would give the hat away. He offered it to Mrs. Helliwell for her son, Bert. But she backed away.

“Nay,” she protested. “Our Bertie’s got enough ideas in his head as it is. With a bloomin’ funny-looking ’at like that, lord knows what balmy notions he’d be getting.”

So the hat went back on the nail, and Mr. Manley went back to his hopeless fight.

“What do you want me to do?” he cried at last, in despair.

“Shucks, podner,” said the hat. “I don’t want anything. What you do with your life is your affair. What do you want to do?”

“I want you to let me alone,” cried Mr. Manley.

He grabbed his hat and raincoat, and went out to the puddle-bleak streets, down sad lanes where homeless men crouched in doorways, past places where drabbled warnen loomed and vanished in the dark, by the glowing coffee shops behind whose steamed windows the taxi-drivers sat joking and laughing. And the laughter followed him into the lonesome ness of night.

SLOWLY the insidious effect of the hat spread over Mr. Manley’s life. It had smashed the routine of his evenings—now it seemed to affect his days at the office, too. He became moody and irritable and, as the staff said in private, there was “no pleasing him these days.”

And his discontent reached its zenith the day he spoke sharply to Miss Watchup.

Now of all the people in the world, Miss Watchup was the last to whom Mr. Manley wanted to speak sharply. For, in times past, he had considered himself one of ! the most fortunate of men to have beside him a secretary who, to him, was so ineffably beautiful. Often, in odd moments, he had found himself looking at the glint of the light on her corn-gold hair as she bent over her typewriter. He had even —it must be confessed—noted the gentle, sure movements of her body as she walked about the office.

But Mr. Manley had put these thoughts away quickly. For one thing, he had seen too many motion pictures in which office executives had used their superior position to force their attentions on girls in their employ—cads and bounders that they were. And the last thing Mr. Manley wanted was to have Miss Watchup consider him a cad or a bounder. So he had adopted a gentle, protective, yet somehow sadly reserved, attitude toward her.

But that was in the old days before the hat. Now, in some extraordinary way, she seemed mixed up in it all—all this discontent. And he could contain himself no longer when she brought up the controversial matter of the 042 hang tapes.

“Nobody seems to know whether the 042 shirt should have an inch-and-a-half hang tape, or a two-inch one,” she said, waiting gladly.

Her eyes were shining. For ordinarily this was just the sort of problem that Mr. Manley loved to solve. From out of his prodigious memory and knowledge of shirt types, he would have brought evidence to support each school of thought. He would have assayed it carefully, and then, after having been plaintiff, defendant, and judge of last appeal, he would have handed down a decision, irrefragable and adamantine, that would have stood thereafter as long as there were 042 shirts and Dobleys alive to make them.

But now, he merely said:

“Either way.”

“Either way?” breathed Miss Watchup, her voice showing her profound surprise and deep emotion.

“Yes, either way,” shouted Mr. Manley. “One inch! Two inches! Either way the shirts’ll hang up! Either way the world will go on, just the same!”

“Oh,” Miss Watchup said. She had never heard Mr. Manley shout before. “Oh!”

He saw a glow creep over the pinkcreaminess of her face. Then she turned, quickly, and hurried from the room— almost at a run. The staff all stopped working, and stared at such untoward happenings. Mr. Manley, too, was upset. He didn’t know what to do. So he turned on the staff.

“And the rest of you,” he shouted. “Get on with your work.”

Almost to his surprise, he saw them bend over in attitudes of concentration. He drew a breath. He felt something was happening to him.

“And you, John Willie Farthingdell! If you can’t get a move on with the postage —well, we’ll—we’ll get a boy who will.” Then Mr. Manley stuck out his chin and strode into the factory, glaring right and left at the girls at the machines.

AS HE went home that evening Mr. 4k Manley felt, somehow, and for no . reason that he could fathom, that the hat

would approve of what he had done, and that perhaps, as a reward, the hat would allow him to spend one evening in peace at home. But once in his room his heart sank. He tried not to look at it, but his eyes kept coming to it. And it was relentless, unforgiving.

“Go on, say it!” shouted Mr. Manley. “Shucks, podner,” said the hat, “I wasn’t fixing to say a word. Besides, what is there to it? You bawl out a nice quiet secretary-gal, who’d take anything coming from you, then you make out like you’re aiming to kick your office boy out of his job of work. What am I supposed to do? Decorate you for bravery?”

“You,” shouted Mr. Manley. “You’re supposed to let me alone!”

Then he picked up his hat and coat wildly. As he went out that night, he knew within himself that he was going to do something “desperate.” And he did. He went to the Victoria Hotel bar !

He had not planned to go there. Indeed, Mr. Manley had never dreamed before of entering the Victoria. It was the kind of place that was beyond his life. It was sumptuous, dazzling, expensive. He had often passed it, but never imagined himself going in and moving about among the forceful, daring people who patronized it.

But that night was one which saw Mr. Manley doing many strange things. A strange force drove him forward.

“Why not?” he said, on impulse, as he stood under the blazing marquee.

He half-expected the bemedalled doorman to hold up a hand and say: “This place is not for you, David Manley.” But instead, the giant figure snapped to attention and held open the door. Mr. Manley walked firmly into the bar. And there he did another unaccountable thing. It was early, and there was only one man in the bar. He was a little man. Smaller than Mr. Manley. Without exactly knowing why, Mr. Manley strode up to him, slapped him on the back, and said:

“Have one on me, podner !”

For a second Mr. Manley quailed at his own recklessness, and he wanted to run away from himself and what he was doing. Then, to his surprise, it was the other man who ran. He slipped from the stool and quavered:

“Sorry—appointment. Dentist, that’s it. Dentist!”

And he scurried away.

“American?”

Mr. Manley saw the barman beaming before.

“Indeed—er, shore!” Mr. Manley said. “Ah, lots of Americans in here—in the buying season. I can always spot ’em. You’d like a bourbon? Always keep bourbon here just for you American gentlemen.”

“Shore,” Mr. Manley said.

Fie didn’t know what a bourbon was. But he found out. At first, he wondered why anyone should drink such horrible stuff. And later, he wondered w’hy one shouldn’t always drink an elixir that brought such a gay sparkling exhilaration. He took another—and another. Life whirled about him. He laughed out loud as he thought of the other little man who had fled.

“A mouse !” he said. “A mouse.”

He, Mr. Manley, wasn’t a mouse. He knew what he was. He was a Bad Character. He liked being a Bad Character. It was glorious. He felt laughter bubbling in his throat. And then the laughter froze, and his heart sank. Through the haze that sw'am in the room, he saw none other than Young Mr. Albert.

Even bourbon’s lush powers couldn’t still the fear that rose in his heart. Young Mr. Albert wrould discover him here. He would know that Mr. Manley was the sort who frequented bars and drank intoxicants; a slave to alcohol, patently unfit to work another day in the Dobley office. Horrors! Mr. Albert had seen him.

“Well, well, well! Manley! Never expected to run into you here, what?”

Mr. Manley was listening to the words. The tone wasn’t angry in the least. He saw in the middle of the haze the prominent teeth of Young Mr. Albert. Those teeth meant that Young Mr. Albert was smiling. And now, Mr. Albert was sitting beside him.

‘‘Just thought I’d drop in for a nightcap.” he was saying. “What’re you taking, Manley? Bourbon? My word, strong stuff. Had a few myself in the States. Well, I might as well, too. Another for you? Two bourbons, Jenks.”

AND THAT was how Mr. Manley came ^ into what, to him, was the incredible situation of sitting beside Young Mr. Albert and, of all things, talking of the matter of the American retail department. It was some time later, and Mr. Manley never knew how the subject came up. But he was asking if they’d selected anyone for the post

“Ponsonby, I think,” the voice was saying. “Yes, the old chap rather thinks Ponsonby.”

A cold, malicious rage burned in Mr. Manley. A sense of injustice. A calculating hatred. That pusher, Ponsonby, who hadn’t been with Dobley’s half as long as he had.

“Ponsonby !” he said.

His voice must have held some special tone, for Mr. Albert was saying:

“Why, what’s wrong with him?” Ordinarily Mr. Manley would not have said what he did, but tonight—devils seemed to push him on, desperately.

“Oh, nothing,” he said, in the tone that means everything.

“Come, come, Manley. If you think ...” “Nothing, really. But, Ponsonby ! After all, lie was the one who suggested that we make our shirts open all the way up the front. Dobley shirts open up the front!” “By jove, so he did. My word!”

They both sat in a long, gloomy silence. It seemed to go on for hours. Then Young Mr. Albert looked up.

“My word, I have an idea!”

“Idea,” said Mr. Manley. He felt weak. “What sort of an idea?”

“S’funny. Can’t quite think of it now. Perhaps it will come back later. Tell you what—I’ll telephone you tomorrow— that’s it. Tomorrow. Talk it over at the office.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Manley, dully.

Not long after he found himself going home. It seemed to be a very foggy night.

' I ’HE NEXT day was a trying one for Mr. Manley. First of all, he had— most unaccountably, it seemed to him—a raging headache. And then there was the strain of waiting for Young Mr. Albert’s telephone call. It seemed to him, somehow, that this would be something of tremendous importance to him. But the telephone bell didn’t ring.

Late through the afternoon Mr. Manley waited. As it neared five o’clock he picked up the telephone. He would call Mr. Albert. But then he put it down. He couldn’t do that. It would be too forward —pushing, like that pusher, Ponsonby. Surely Mr. Albert would call on his own accord.

He waited, and waited. Finally, in desperation, he called. The voice said Mr. Albert had just gone home. Mr. Manley put the telephone down, sadly. W earily he went home. He went to his room and locked the door. And then he saw the hat.

“Oh,” he cried. “You’ve got to let me alone. I don’t feel well. You mustn’t drive me out tonight.”

“Shucks, podner,” said the hat, softly, “I never wanted to drive you out. Stay here.”

“I will,” Mr. Manley cried. “I will.” Busily he hung up his clothes. He made himself the bouillon and toast as of old. He put on his slippers. He picked up one

of the magazines to which he subscribed. He had so much back reading to do. He started in furiously:

“As the rangy, slim figure rode with a careless sang-froid over the wide mesa, a rifle spoke. The crack ...”

There was the opening sentence in plain, simple English. And yet. somehow, it wouldn't make sense. Mr. Manley read it over and over. The words were only words. Then he let the magazine fall to his lap, and his eyes lifted to the hat. He spoke, his voice tired and strained.

“Please.” he said. “It wasn’t my fault. He said he’d call me. It was only polite to wait.”

“Polite?” said the hat. “Of course. Always be polite, Mr. Manley. Always be polite.”

Mr. Manley snatched up the magazine again, and pretended to read. But the voice cut into his consciousness—a soft, low voice.

“What’re you reading?”

“An adventure magazine,” quavered Mr. Manley.

“Reading about it. Huh!” snorted the hat.

Fearfully Mr. Manley threw away the magazine. He went to the mantelpiece and took down a vase. He scrabbled in it and took out a key. With the key he unlocked a japanned box. From that he took out a small blue book.

It was his bank book; his mental shield and fortress and buckler. Behind that he was safe from the world. He was warm, protected.

He drove his attention to the figures. More than 980 pounds. He had five pounds to deposit. Only another ten pounds after that, and he’d have a thousand pounds. Four figures—the goal of years! But the hat was talking, driving down into his brain.

“What have you got there?”

“My bank book. It’s my savings!” “What are you saving for?”

“For my old age, of course.” That was easy to explain.

“Your old age!” shouted the hat. “ Your old age? What about our youth?” “Our youth?” quavered Mr. Manley. He trembled. He felt he was nearing the brink of a fearful chasm over which he didn’t want to peer. But the hat was going on, its voice low and even:

“Yes, our youth ! It’s our youth you’ve put into that book, David Manley. Year by year, you’ve deposited it smugly. You can deposit it, but you can't draw it out —ever! And what have you got for it? Black marks in a little book, that’s all.

“At first you were saving for manhood. Now that’s here, you say you’re saving for old age. And when old age comes—what will you save for then?

“I’ll tell you what! You’ll save for nothing. Life will be gone. And it won’t comeback. It won’t! It won’t!

“Ah, David Manley, you, who in the splendid fire of youth dreamed of being different, have grown to live your life like millions of others on this earth—as if you’re going to have a dozen more lives when this one is done. Well, they won’t! And you won’t!

“Only one life, David Manley! Only one! One life in which to be fine and brave and indomitable—or to be weak and puny and grubby as you are now, letting life flow over you without purpose, without clarity, like a mudsucker at the bottom of a stream ...”

“Stop it!” Mr. Manley shouted. “Stop it!”

Then he bent his head in his hands, and the room sounded only to his sharp, indrawn breath.

“Ah,” said the hat. “If you’re afraid— that’s the end.”

There was silence and then, slowly, very slowly, David Manley lifted his head. He rose to his feet.

“No,” he said. “I’m not afraid. Let’s face it at last. I’m not afraid.”

“Come here, then, David Manley,” said the hat.

Its voice now was gentle. As Mr. Manley walked across the room it seemed as if, in a dream, that voice was a halfremembered one from his childhood. A gentle, adult voice of long ago.

“Don’t look at me,” the hat said, softly. “Look at that picture in the frame below J me. Tell me, what do you see?”

“It’s me—Davie Manley—when I was I alad.”

“Davie Manley when he was a lad. Well, face him now, Grownup David Manley ! Make your reckoning with that boy! Tell him, now, tonight, what you’ve done with him !”

David Manley lowered his eyes. He did not answer.

“Go on. Grownup David Manley,” prompted the hat. “Tell him! Where are all the things you promised him?”

The voice was now tense, and the words were rushing out, fiercely:

“Where is the smell of a deck, hot under the tropic sun? Where are the spice-laden breezes that were to come from a dark shore on a throbbing night? Where is the gallant spirit that promised to take him voyaging cleanly through the world? And where are the people who were to have thrilled to his name? Where are the eyes that were to light with the glad flame of admiration when they beheld him?

“Where now chines that lustre that was j his brave young soul? Make your accounting, Grownup David Manley !”

“But—but those are the dreams of youth,” Mr. Manley protested in a high, weak voice. “As the Good Book says: ‘When 1 became a man I put away childish things.’ And then, this is a business world. And, small and humble as it may be, each one of us must play his part. It may not be adventurous, but as for adventure—and things—well, you can read about those in books—and ...”

His voice trailed away, and slowly his eyes came up to the hat. He bowed his head.

“All right,” he said in a small voice. “What do you want me to do?”

“No!” thundered the hat. “You can’t ask me. There is only one person you have a right to ask.”

“Who’s that?”

“Yourself, David Manley!”

For a long time the little meek man stood there. Then, slowly, he lifted his head.

“All right,” he said. “I know.”

He turned and, picking up his hat and coat, went out into the night.

OLD Josiah Dobley sat in his great chair before the fire and stared at the little man on the sofa.

“Now, now,” Old Josiah said. “Come round to my office in the morning, and we’ll iron it all out.”

“No,” Mr. Manley said, firmly. “I had to tell you tonight. It’s final.”

“But Davie, what I can’t understand is, what on earth you want to leave us for?” Mr. Manley sat still, puzzled. Obviously he couldn’t say: “I’m leaving all because of an outlandish hat.” Yet what else was there to say?

“There, see,” Old Josiah said, triumphantly. “Ye don’t know. Now let it go till morning, and we’ll fix it up. Why, you can’t resign, Wee Davie Manley. Heh, you’ve been with us—why, bless my back and buttons—it must be near twelve years, and ...”

“That’s it,” Mr. Manley almost shouted. “Twelve years. They’ve slipped away without anyone noticing it. Why you— you still call me Wee Davie as you did when l first came to work for you as office boy—in my first long pants. And we can’t let life slip away.”

“Why not?”

"Why not? Well—a man only has one life, Mr. Josiah. That’s it. A man only has one life, and yet most people go on as if they’re going to have half a dozen more lives when this one is gone. Well, they won’t. I won’t. Only one life—in which to be daring, and brave, and fine.”

“Bless my back and buttons,” Old Josiah breathed. “What’s come over you,

Davie? You’re just talking words—and you should think of facts. And facts is —well, Davie—you can’t desert me. Why, you’re my right hand. Outside of me, nobody knows the business inside-out like you do. You just about run the production end—you’re practically general manager. How can you desert me and Dobley’s like that?”

Mr. Manley shook his head.

“I’m leaving,” he said, almost miserably. Old Josiah ruminated and poured a glass of port. Then he thumped it down on the table, suddenly.

“Davie Manley,” he said, sternly. “Has some firm offered ye more money to go with them?”

“Oh, Mr. Josiah. I wouldn’t think— why no. I’m not going anywhere else.” “Well, what are you going to live on, then, Davie?”

Mr. Manley sought wildly for an idea— and then it came to him, almost from nowhere.

“I’m going to America, Mr. Josiah. That’s it. I’m leaving for America.”

Old Josiah stared at him, and then he suddenly thumped the table again.

“By gum!” he roared, “I have it! An idea! Here you’ve decided to go to America. And here we’re needing a man to go to America. Two and two make four. Why shouldn’t you go over there for us?"

“But,” wavered Mr. Manley, feeling weak—so very weak, “what about Ponsonby?”

“Ponsonby,” snorted the old man. “That bumbledy-cock. Aye, we were off to send him. But when we planned that, how could we know that you were willing—for some reason that I ’ll never fathom—to go to far-off foreign lands?”

“Well, you might have asked me,” Mr. Manley said, softly.

For a long time Old Josiah stared at the figure before him, peering from under jutting eyebrows with eyes that were old but which saw clearly.

“Wee Davie Manley,” he breathed, in reproach. “Davie, did you ever see a body in the mill stop a machine to oil a silent pulley?”

“No, Mr. Josiah. What for?”

“Because you never will, Davie. For it’s always the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Remember that all your life. It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. And it’s the same with humans. The world will never give anything to a chap who doesn’t stand up on his hind legs once in a while, and make a noise for what he wants.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then, it’s all settled. So let’s have a glass of port on it.”

“But one minute, Mr. Josiah. Er—the salary. It should be at least a thousand a year ...”

“We’ll discuss that tomorrow.”

“No, Mr. Josiah, tonight. I must have a thousand !”

“All right, a thousand. Now here’s your glass ...”

“And there’d be lots of work. I couldn’t start with entirely green hands. I must have someone with me who’ll know what I’m talking about. A secretary—that is— Miss Watchup. Miss Watchup must be offered the post as my assistant and secretary.”

“Miss Watchup, too?” roared Old Josiah. Then he saw Mr. Manley was rising, as if to leave.

“Now hold on, Davie. All right. Miss Watchup—but you drive a hard bargain.” “You told me,” Mr. Manley said. “The squeaky wheel ...”

“Aye, but remember this, too, Davie, my lad. If a wheel gets to squeaking all the time—it gets thrown on the scrap heap and a new one goes in. Well, I suppose Miss Watchup shall go. It can be managed. So now—take the glass and drink up.”

But Mr. Manley was backing away.

“No, thank you. Given up drinking. Doesn’t agree with me—and I have to —important business. Good night.”

And he was gone.

“Well, bless my back and buttons,” Old Josiah said.

He stood there with the glass of port in his hand, until he heard a sound. It was his son, coming home.

“Come in here. Young Albert,” he roared. “Here. Take this drink. 1've.got news for you. We’ve decided to send Davie Manley over to open the Yankee territory.”

“Have we?” started Young Mr. Albert. Then his eyes popped open as if he’d seen a ghost. “My word! ’Strawn'ry! That’s what I've been trying to remember all day. Had the most marvellous idea last night— at the Vic bar. Couldn’t think all day. Now I remember what it was. It was: ‘Call Manley up and broach him about the American matter.’ Send Manley to America.. That was it. And now' I come in here and find it's happened. ’Strawn’ry !

“Y’know,” he concluded in a whisper, “it almost makes a chap believe in fate and things!”

And he certainly would have believed in fate if he could have heard what Mr. Manley w'as saying at that moment. For Mr. Manley had taken a bus, far out of the city, to a suburb called Silverthorne Gardens, where he had so often plodded wearily during lost, hopeless evenings. And as he went down a suburban street, he gazed at a lighted window'. And then he said aloud:

“Of course! And to think I’ve passed so many times and not realized ii: ceicre! That’s where Miss Watchup fivec How extraordinary !”

ON THE boat deck of the liner Mr.

Manley and Miss Watchup stared at the sky line of New York, gilded in the morning sun.

“Exactly like it is in the cinema,” said Mr. Manley.

“Yes,” Miss Watchup’s gentle voice said. “It’s beautiful.”

“And so . . . ” began Mr. Manley. Then his thoughts fled in panic. “Miss Watchup. I wonder. Can you ever forgive me for being so rude to you that day—you know, about the 012 hang tapes?”

“Rude?” Miss Watchup said. “Rude? I thought you were—masterful. Perfectly masterful.”

Now’ in a mental, as well as emotional, confusion, Mr. Manley could say nothing. He fled. He went to his cabin. And then he saw—that ten-gallon hat.

“All right,” he shouted suddenly. “I know !”

He turned, and left. But this time there w'as purpose in his footsteps. And when he came back ten minutes later, there was a new air about him. He faced the hat.

“Miss Watchup,” he said, “has agreed to become my wife. There now. What do you think of that?”

He was still standing there as in a trance when the steward came for his bags.

“All ready, sir. And. ’ow about this funny-looking ’at. Will you carry it, sir?” “Carry it? I should say not. I’m—I’m going to wear it.”

And thrusting his shipboard cap in his pocket, Mr. Manley put on that great, brave, outlandish hat. And as he went to the gangplank, its towering crown added to his stature, and its swaggering brim said that below' was the face of one of those men who do things.

Taking Miss Watchup’s hand, he went down the gangplank to a new country, a new world, a new' life.

As for the hat. then, and from that time forth, it said nothing whatever at all.